Why a good night's sleep is so important for your health

Getting a good night's sleep is vital for your health and wellbeing.
Getting a good night's sleep is vital for your health and wellbeing.
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We’re all familiar with that feeling of grogginess after burning the midnight oil or having a poor night’s sleep.

But are you aware that regularly not getting enough sleep can have a detrimental act on your health?

A lack of sleep is a factor in a range of serious health conditions and issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, growth and development, illness and fertility problems.

It can make people feel hungrier, affect insulin and blood sugar levels, and impact the release of hormones that control growth and fertility.

Poor sleep also has an impact on our mental health, leaving us with slower reactions and prone to mistakes.

It has also been linked to low libido, recklessness, depression and even suicide.

The amount of sleep people need changes according to their age.

Adults need around eight hours of good quality sleep to function effectively, while babies require up to 17 hours a day, young children around 11 hours, and teenagers around nine hours.

But not everyone finds it easy to get a good night’s sleep. So what should they do?

Setting a good bedtime routine and sticking to it is one way to increase the chance of better sleep.

Digital distractions play a significant role in preventing effective sleep, and it pays to prepare for sleep by switching off any devices at least an hour before you intend to put your head on the pillow.

The blue glow from mobile phones, computers, tablets and televisions mimic daylight and can stimulate the brain into believing it’s time to remain alert rather than settle down for the night.

If that’s proving too much of a distraction, try to remove digital devices from the bedroom and keep them out of reach.

Reduce the amount of caffeine and nicotine you consume and avoid alcohol and overeating, which can disrupt sleep patterns.

Find ways to ensure that your bedroom is comfortable and relaxing. Keep it tidy and warm and ensure that the curtains cut out as much light and noise as possible.

Exercising late at night can lead to sleep problems, but gentle movement through yoga or meditation can help.

Your GP will be able to offer support if you continue to have problems sleeping and may prescribe sleeping tablets for short-term sleeplessness.

You may be referred to a sleep specialist if symptoms persist.

* Dr Alexandra Phelan is a family health NHS GP and online doctor with Pharmacy2U.co.uk